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Interview David Wake

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This week we are joined by David Wake here to tell us about Hashtag and Atcode in the Thinkersphere series.  The third, Plus Sign, will be out for Easter, 2020.


What was the most surprising thing you found out while researching/writing your latest book?

I’m not sure I did any specific research for my latest book.  I just idly watched people glued to their phones and despaired over the triviality of social media, and the idea hit me.  It’s that classic ‘what if?’.  Having said that, a couple of items in the ‘Science for Fiction’ conference chimed ‘ooh, ooh, I can use that’.  For this one, it was ‘organic-based polymers can be used for a computer/brain interface’ – ah-ha, that’s how to actually realise my tech!

The trick is to immerse yourself in research on anything and everything like a magpie, and then spot when an idea flits across your brain.

I’m always amazed at how useful Wikipedia can be.  I donate and recommend everyone does.  It’s arguably the greatest human invention of all time.

Why did you choose this setting?

It chose me.

I think SF is often about the present.  HG Wells exaggerated the growing divide between rich and poor to postulate a future when they’d become separate species.  The Time Machine had the Eloi and the Morlocks as a warning for his times.  Hmm, growing divide between the rich and the poor… disturbingly apt for our times too.

What’s unique about your world?

Pure SF ought to change a single aspect of the here and now, and then follow it to its logical conclusion.  (But then, if you are writing in, say, the future, all sorts of things would have changed as well, so it’s not quite the cast-iron rule it ought to be.)  My take was to exaggerate Twitter, WhatsApp and the like.  The Thinkersphere in my world makes it possible to ‘tweet’ your every thought to everyone else.  The whole population is fitted with an iBrow, a device under your forehead that connects to your frontal cortex to transmit everything you think.  It’s social media turned up to 11.  It’s the way we’re going.

How real do you think the science is in your book?

I wasn’t entirely convinced it was real, until I went to a science conference and heard all about it.  I’d written two books by then.  People are working on the technology now and making strides forward.  I suspect it’s a way off yet, but you never know.

The task of an SF writer isn’t so much to say ‘this technology is on the way’, but to say ‘this technology will have this impact’.  Any day now, there’ll be two species of human all ‘thinking’ to each other about breakfasts and cats.

What was the most mundane item that you used that really has cool tech behind it? What is the tech?

I did add a Dreamcatcher Thapp (Thought-App) that records your thoughts while you are asleep.  It’s just a throw-away line, but it does suggest possibilities. If I had one, I could write from the Land of Nod.

What did you include that you wish was real today?

Mine really is dystopian.  Mind you, there’s no premeditated crime and lying is a thing of the past, so is that worth surrendering privacy for?

I’ve got autonomous cars, which are about to be real.  I wrote a car chase, but cars chasing each other at the speed limit, stopping at the lights and obeying all the traffic regulations didn’t turn out to be as exciting as I’d hoped.  I cut it.

Really, we all want those jet-packs we were promised.

What technology or science do you think will most affect the world of tomorrow?

I’ve heard it said that there’s a race between AI and climate change.  Can we develop the former early enough for it to solve the latter problem?  If we do, will we listen?

The AI singularity is certainly ‘all bets are off’ regarding predicting the future.  I did cover the development of AI, but my take wasn’t that it’ll be Skynet, Colossus or any other big machine in the lab.  It’ll be in your pocket, more intelligent than your, more self-aware and more conscious, but still treated like a fashion accessory.  I, Phone is a first-person perspective thriller.

Anything else you would like to share?

I’ve included in my links my twitter handle, but I don’t use it.  I used to do research at the cutting edge of computer science research and now I’m something of a Luddite.  What would visiting aliens make of us inventing a World Wide Web and using it to tell everyone what we had for breakfast?